New digs

Pasatiempo - - Pasa Tempos - — P.W.

The idea of mov­ing into a brand-new build­ing prob­a­bly sounds a lit­tle un­be­liev­able to the em­ploy­ees of the Mu­seum of New Mex­ico’s Of­fice of Ar­chae­o­log­i­cal Stud­ies (OAS). For the past 30 years, they have car­ried out their work in a suc­ces­sion of dingy, old spa­ces in the orig­i­nal St. Vin­cent Hospi­tal (built in the early 1950s), the Joseph Halpin Records Cen­ter (1932), and the Bataan Memo­rial Build­ing (orig­i­nally built as the state Capi­tol in 1900).

This sum­mer— per­haps as early as June— the ar­chae­ol­o­gists will have a sparkling-clean new build­ing within which to con­sider their an­cient sub­jects. The Cen­ter for New Mex­ico Ar­chae­ol­ogy (CNMA) go­ing up on Caja del Río Road is a lit­tle over 30,000 square feet. Just a year or so ago, the construction project had a bud­get of about $9 mil­lion, but de­lays and the re­ces­sion have knocked it down to $6.45 mil­lion.

“We’ve lit­er­ally been work­ing on this for more than 20 years,” said OAS di­rec­tor Eric Blin­man, “through re­search and false starts and economies and dif­fer­ent Leg­is­la­tures. I’m now manag­ing eight dif­fer­ent ap­pro­pri­a­tions for this.”

The CNMA is be­ing de­signed to house a few dozen sci­en­tists and spe­cial­ized anal­y­sis lab­o­ra­to­ries. And there will be a cli­mate-con­trolled repos­i­tory for about 10 mil­lion items in the state’s Ar­chae­o­log­i­cal Re­search Col­lec­tions, which is the re­spon­si­bil­ity of Shelby Tis­dale, di­rec­tor of the Mu­seum of In­dian Arts & Cul­ture/Lab­o­ra­tory of An­thro­pol­ogy.

Most of the ar­chae­o­log­i­cal ar­ti­facts are small pieces of stone, pot­tery, and char­coal un­cov­ered dur­ing ex­ca­va­tions car­ried out be­fore construction projects for roads and build­ings. There are also stone tools, bas­kets, stone sculp­tures, and mu­rals from a kiva at Kuaua, a 14th-cen­tury pue­blo about 40 miles south­west of Santa Fe, within the bound­aries of what is now Coron­ado State Mon­u­ment.

Blin­man said the CNMA will be the first struc­ture built as part of a 25-acre Depart­ment of Cul­tural Af­fairs Col­lec­tions and Ser­vice Cam­pus. The next will be an ad­di­tion to the col­lec­tions repos­i­tory, with a pri­vate cer­e­mo­nial space for Amer­i­can In­di­ans who wish to spend time with cul­tural items in the col­lec­tion. Dur­ing a tour of the construction site on March 3, Tis­dale ex­pressed her hope that a fund­ing wind­fall would al­low that to be built as part of the cur­rent project.

Lockwood Construction and the ar­chi­tect, Kells + Craig of Al­bu­querque, are striv­ing for a Sil­ver cer­ti­fi­ca­tion in the Lead­er­ship in En­ergy and En­vi­ron­men­tal De­sign green-build­ing sys­tem. “Ac­tu­ally, we’re just a point or two away from Gold,” Blin­man said. “We have yet to achieve in­no­va­tion points, and for that we’re ex­plor­ing do­ing an eth­nob­otanic dis­play gar­den for the past 12,000 years of New Mex­ico oc­cu­pa­tion.”

The gar­den and the cen­ter’s land­scap­ing will be nour­ished with wa­ter stored in un­der­ground cis­terns with a ca­pac­ity of 40,000 gal­lons. The potable-wa­ter sup­ply for the build­ing’s users will come from the Río Grande when the Buck­man Di­rect Di­ver­sion Project is fin­ished.

“We’re deal­ing with chal­lenges,” Blin­man af­firmed. “Our build­ing will be ready be­fore county wa­ter is avail­able. We could drill a well now, and it would be un­nec­es­sary in a year, but no one wants more straws in the aquifer. So the chal­lenge is to fig­ure how to keep potable wa­ter and fire sup­pres­sion go­ing un­til we have Buck­man.”

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